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December 04, 2009

It's redfish mania along the Panhandle of Florida!

The weather may be cold, but the reds are here and their biting !

Last week the red fishing was outstanding. I had a couple of trips where we hooked 20-plus fish on each trip. The fish are ranging from 14 - 30lbs, and the average lengths of the fish are around 33 to 43 inches. These bronze bruisers are a lot of fun to catch, especially on light tackle.

This week we had an upper lever low that brought us high winds and a lot of rain, so I haven't been out on the water, but I'm sure as soon as Mother Nature calms down, the reds will be there and ready to pounce on our offerings.

There are a few different places where we've been spotting these big schools of reds. So if plan A doesn't work; then I'm off to plan B or plan C if necessary. But, for the past three days, all three spots have been absolutely on fire. The bite should stay hot for the next three to four weeks, and then it will most likely die down some. The reds won't totally disappear, but right now you can go out and see 500 reds busting baits on the surface, and that is a sight you should make every effort to witness. December is a pretty good month to catch these bronze tackle busters and so is the first week of January. But make no mistake; if you've never hooked up a monster redfish, then you're in for a "reel" treat if you can make it down to Pensacola.

These large schools of reds are in full spawn and are gorging themselves on whatever they can eat. Make sure you have good tackle and very strong hooks, as these fish will test the mettle of your rigs, and you don't want to be stuck with pulled hooks in the middle of the action.

In other fishing news, the white trout bite is really starting to heat up along 3 Mile Bridge, and mixed in the mess are Black Snapper and some slot reds. If you like to catch and eat black snapper, then try fishing a few of the rock jetties along the pass. The ticket is to use live shrimp on a Carolina rig. The mackerels are still around, but not too many. I caught a King a few days back while slow trolling a jig, and a captain friend of mine caught a few Spanish in the bay. Most of these fish have already migrated down south, but a few are still hanging around helping themselves to the all the bait that's in the bay right now. Up in the upper bay system like Escambia and Blackwater Bay, the speck bite and slot redfish bite has been hit and miss. We've had a lot of rain, which has muddied up the water, and it has been very windy. When the water clears up and we get a few sunny days, the bite in these areas should pick back up. I'll be up in that area a few times this winter, so stay tuned to see what's happening around Blackwater and Escambia Bay.

Take a gander at some of these pics, and if you would like to catch some reds like this, just give me a call and we'll get you hooked up on the Mega-Bite.

Tackle corner:
Lets talk tackle for a minute; I'll give away a few secrets when fishing for these reds. First thing first is to keep it simple. My rod and reel combos are Boca 30's with Boca's 7ft, 14 - 20lb class Med-Hvy Rods. Spool with 30 lb Berkley Big Game braid or 30 lb Spiderwire Stealth braid. I also use 40 - 50 lb Berkley Fluorocarbon leader, depending upon if the kings are cutting me off.

Lures for fishing for these big reds is again very simple.
First let's talk jigs, and you simply need a jig with a very strong hook. I've seen these big reds mangle a substandard hook in just one bite with their strong crushers.
I like to throw a few different jigs, and my first choice almost always is the SPRO JIG, in either a 1oz - 2oz, rigged with a Chartreuse curly tail or some type of swim bait.

Second pick is the swim bait without a buck tail jig, just a plain 1oz - 2oz jig. Mann's makes a great jig for this; it has a long J hook and works very well when rigged with swim baits. Two good swim baits I prefer are Mann's Hard-Nose and Strike King's Shadalicious in the 4.5" long mullet pattern. Rigged properly, this bait will fool most fish into striking. A couple weeks ago, we hooked a 30lb king on a Mann's 1oz red headed jig rigged with a Strike King 4.5" mullet pattern Shadalicious. What an awesome fight we had!

Another good all-around bait to use is a trolling plug, such as a stretch 25. This bait covers a lot of water fast and helps to locate the fish. Two of my favorite colors are Pink and the Cabo Sunset.

Well, I've given a few tips to get you started on catching these big reds, now just get up off the couch, put on your winter jackets, and hit the water. If you don't have a boat or just need a few more pointers, please give me a ring and I'll be happy to set you up on a great red fishing adventure.
Till next time, here's wishing you bent rods and screaming drags.
Capt. John